SMU Students Serve The Dallas Community

November 2, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Caroline Arbaugh

“Tag, you’re it!” cried sophomore SMU student Elizabeth Banta as she tapped the back of the five year old girl at Bryan’s House, a non-profit, special-care facility for children.

The kids, delighted with the game and the new friends that had come to play with them, raced around the playground.

Banta, along with hundreds of other SMU students, participated in the 41st Annual campus-wide community service day put on by Students Promoting Awareness, Responsibility and Citizenship Saturday afternoon.

Bryan’s House was one of nearly 25 different community service programs offered for the day.

SPARC advisor Geoff Whitcomb said it was expected to be the biggest Community Service Day ever, with around 1,200 students in attendance.

Over 30 organizations including members of Greek life, religious groups, and student government joined in the activities. Each group was assigned a location to serve from 11 a.m. to 3 in the afternoon.

These philanthropies included work with senior citizens, adults and children as well as activities that involved landscaping, painting, clean-ups, and volunteering at festivals throughout Dallas, Garland and Farmers Branch.

“This day gives students a chance to go beyond themselves,” Whitcomb said. “It’s a chance to learn but also a chance to serve.”

This event also signified the beginning of Homecoming week. All of the candidates for Homecoming King and Queen shared in the event and brought members from their respective organizations to participate.

Each registered group competed for up to 325 spirit points based on the percentage of attendance from the group. Participation in Homecoming events accounts for 25 percent of a candidate’s spirit points.

Winning this furthered an organization’s chance to crown their candidate 2009 Homecoming King or Queen.

However, beyond the competitive surface the day held a sense of harmony.

“The school is unified by Community Service Day and benefits not only our campus but the community,” senior Homecoming candidate, Olivia Moretto, said.

Junior Katie Schoebel felt that amid the busy schedule of a college student this day provided an organized way to help people outside of the SMU sphere.

“It’s refreshing, even if it’s just doing something small for others,” said Schoebel.

Student Body President, Patrick Kobler said it was really nice for everyone to be able to put aside the competition and show the Dallas community that SMU is more than just students, it’s genuine citizens who care about others too.

“Even if only one person came and helped out it would have been a success,” said Kobler.

Campus News Blog: Homecoming Is Here!

October 31, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Sam Todd

It might be Halloween, but today is the official start of SMU’s Homecoming festivities, planned by SMU Student Foundation. It kicked off this morning with a community service event, and busloads of SMU students headed to a home for senior citizens, a community festival and other events around the metroplex to help out and give back to their community.

Participants in today’s event all received points that go towards their organization in the homecoming competition, which culminates in the crowning of a homecoming king and queen during the halftime ceremonies of the homecoming football game against Rice. With today’s 27-13 win over Tulsa, the Mustangs will have another shot to bring that 4-4 record over .50.

Other homecoming events taking place this week include tomorrow’s Field Day, the presentation of the candidates on Monday, the annual Homecoming College Bowl on Wednesday, 24-hour float building on Thursday, and the annual parade on the boulevard before Saturday’s game.

Don’t miss out on this week, it’s truly one of the university’s best traditions.

Global News Blog: Annual Community Service Day on Halloween

October 27, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Nadia Dabbakeh

Start your Halloween off right by joining your fellow SMU students in giving back to the community – after all, no tricks or treats could ever compare.

For 41 years, SMU has been using this day to help serve various agencies around the Dallas area. The event is open to all students and campus organizations non-affiliated with Homecoming 2009, as well as those running for King and Queen.

Check begins at 10 am at the University Flagpole, where Director of Multicultural Affairs Jennifer Jones and Student Senate President Patrick Kobler will give opening remarks. Students will then be bused to different service projects and return to campus at 3 pm.

All the wonderful Dallas agencies students will be working with are really looking forward to sharing in the experience. Participants will also receive free movie passes to Studio Movie Grill and plenty of Coke refreshments during the event! Bring your friends, family and giving spirit – and have a happy Halloween!

Students Change Lives on Trip to Honduras

April 18, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Alex Meaker

The beauty of Central Honduras is not just seen in the landscape, but also in the love and happiness of the Honduran villagers. A group of 11 SMU students experienced this first hand over spring break this past March.

Students who spoke little Spanish felt the power of non-verbal communication as they dug a trench with Hondurans to bring river water into the village. Even though the students and Hondurans could not communicate verbally, they both understood the task before them and worked together as a team. The language barrier became insignificant.

The students spent their days mixing cement, building latrines, digging trenches, and teaching vacation Bible school to the village children.

The goal of the four-day stay in the Agalta Valley in mid-March was to help improve the quality of life of the villagers of Olancho. The trip was coordinated through a senior SMU student, David Luttrell, whose home church in Tampa regularly volunteers for the Honduras Outreach Inc. program.

“The overall mission of the trip was to improve the quality of life and living conditions physically, but it was also focused on building positive relationships with the people there,” said Whitney Bartels, a junior who participated in the trip.

Beyond the volunteer work, the trip was a chance for the students to grow individually. “In a phrase, we spent a week seeing Christ in the people we served and each other, ” Luttrell said.

Along with the 11 students, 15 adults from the Tampa church attended the trip. Two of the adults were fluent in Spanish, along with a few students and adults who could communicate in conversational Spanish with the villagers.

Those who could speak Spanish got to interact on a more personal level with the villagers. But according to Rachel Pierson, a freshman at SMU, “we had no problem communicating with smiles, gestures and touch.”

Upon arrival to the Honduran village, the children held signs and sang a song welcoming the group to the village. Some of the children remembered those adults who had been on the trip previously, proving that the Honduras Outreach groups have made a lasting impact.

Luttrell attended the trip four times before deciding to organize a group of students to join him this year.

“It’s been a dream of mine to experience a week in Honduras serving with friends since I came to college,” said Luttrell. “It surpassed even my highest expectations – we got to spend a week serving along side each other, loving Honduran villagers and growing in how God wants us to treat one another.”
The group stayed at a ranch run by Honduras Outreach Inc., which houses volunteers and provides shelter for nearby villagers.

Often, three generations of family live in tiny houses with walls made of scrapings and dirt floors. The group helped to pour six cement floors in villagers’ houses, which is a luxury to them.

“Even though the people lived in such poverty, it was incredible to see how happy they were,” said Pierson. “They had their family and that’s all that mattered.”

The students confronted difficulties with the afternoon vacation bible school. Sometimes there were too few supplies for the children, and the chaos of the language barrier created confusion. Also, the group did not confront the children on their faith or beliefs.

“The people saw the love of Jesus through our actions,” Bartels said.

The children’s happiness and love reminded the students about the simplicity of life.

“Life is so simple in Honduras – love God by loving others as He has loved us,” said Luttrell.

One particular 14-year-old girl in the village affected Bartels. The girl was one of only three children in the village who got the opportunity to continue her education past the sixth grade. She loved going to school so much that Bartels began to appreciate her own education.

“It made me hurt for her because I knew that she would never have the same opportunities I have,” said Bartels. “It’s hard not to feel guilty about it.”

Many of the group members agreed that it was difficult to leave the Hondurans knowing that they would probably live their entire life in the village with little opportunity. However, the rewards of volunteering were priceless.

“Being in Honduras reminded me of how lucky and fortunate I am,” Bartels said. “It was rewarding to be able to come back knowing that we did a little bit to make a small improvement. Even if it was only in one village, it was still one step toward the greater good.”

Returning to SMU, the students realized how easy it is to lose sight of “life’s true purpose and rhythm,” said Luttrell. “Life is more simple than we make it – all we really need to do is ‘make everyday a Honduras day.’”